London red phone booth

A half day in London

When flying long haul, and want to take a sleeping pill to help you sleep, make sure to check your itinerary first!

In 2010, my two friends and I travelled from Australia to Spain, with a half day layover in London. During this trip we visited Seville, Cordoba, Grenada, Barcelona, Ibiza, Paris and then I continued to Scotland, ending in London for three days. This is the first post of the trip, covering our flight and a short layover in London. 

The long flight to London

I’ll start by admitting that prior to boarding, I may not have read the fine print of our flight itinerary. We knew we were flying from Perth to Brunei (5.5 hours), with a short layover in Dubai and then onto London. What I didn’t realise until landing in Dubai was that during our ’20’ minute stopover, we’d have to get off the plane.

Since we were landing in London at 6am, I decided to force myself awake until Dubai and then try to sleep for the 7 -8 hour flight to London. Assuming we’d be staying on the plane for such a short stop in Dubai, I popped a sleeping pill about 30 minutes before we touched down. We then found out we’d have to get out, go through security and get back on the plane (in “20 minutes”). The sleeping pill was already kicking in and after leaving the plane, I realised that the boarding pass I needed to re-board was still on the plane. So I had to push my way “against the current” through 3/4 of the passengers to get back to my seat, exit the plane for a second time and then clear security. By this time I was not feeling the best. The swirly carpets on the walk to the gate weren’t helping and I thought I was going to pass out! The 20 minute stop was more like 45 minutes, and by the time I was back in my seat it had morphed into the most comfortable plane seat I’ve ever sat in. Needless to say, I was fast asleep not too long after I shut my eyes.

Mel was super awesome and let me have the window seat. This meant that she sat next to a very odd woman who wouldn’t stop trying to talk to her even though Mel had her face mask on and was trying to sleep. We also had a screaming child that kept waking us up despite the drug induced sleep, but at least one screaming infant is to be expected on any long haul flight!

Touching down in London Heathrow was a breeze. We were through immigration and had our bags in less than a half hour. We found the underground, bought our Oyster cards and hopped on the train that left about a minute later. Everything was working out superbly!

We got off the train at Hyde Park corner so we could walk past Buckingham Palace and then continue to Big Ben. We saw the palace and I have to admit, we didn’t recognize what it was. So as a first impression I can’t say I was overly impressed, though it was pretty big.

Our goal was to get a picture standing next to a red phone booth, with a double decker bus passing by with Big Ben in the background. I thought it would be impossible, but it ending up taking about 30 seconds to get the photo sorted. Red phone booths are everywhere and so are the buses!

London Phone Booth
London Phone Booth

Since our flight to Spain was from Stansted Airport, and we didn’t know where we could leave our bags while we explored London, we ended up lugging them around.  After more walking, we ended up in Trafalgar Square, saw the lions and decided coffee would be a good idea. Mel’s card didn’t work, but fortunately mine did. With coffee in us, we continued to Picadilly Square. I had heard it was like Times Square but the only similarity I could see was one small wall with a few massive flashing billboards. By this time it was about 11am and we figured we might as well find the bus station and get to the train station for a nap.

Lions in Trafalgar Square

We walked along Oxford street and I took a mental snap shot of all the shops I wanted to go to when I returned a couple weeks later…

We took the train to the Stratford tube stop. After looking around everywhere for the National Express bus, we eventually found it. The bus ride to the airport was an eventless 1 hour trip. We were 4 hours early and the check in counter wasn’t open yet so it was another chance to try to sleep.

Our flight was with Ryanair which definitely wins the “no frills airline” award. By no frills I mean none whatsoever, such as pockets on the back of the seats, an assigned seat or seats that recline. I was hoping to get some sleep on the flight but every 15 minutes there was an announcement of some sort to sell their products. There were two announcements alone informing us of their scratch cards for sale. That flight was the longest 2 hour flight ever.

We landed in Seville pretty much on time at 9pm. We were planning on waiting for Georgia because she was arriving 30 minutes after us. The problem was that no flights were coming from Turkey. We waited anyway hoping her flight was arriving via Barcelona. We were right and so excited when she came through the arrivals doors. After a short bus ride into the town and about a 15 minute walk (I was so over walking with my bag at this point). We were at our hostel. A bunk bed has never felt so comfortable in my entire life!

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